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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Have there been any studies on the effects of cetyl myristoleate (CMO) on arthritis?

Q) A short time ago I came across a book entitled Arthritis Beaten Today about cetyl myristoleate (CMO), which is said to 'cure' arthritis and which describes a number of anecdotal accounts suggestive of near-miraculous results. A course of treatment with CMO consists of talking six capsules per day of 385 mg of CMO for a period of 10 days. I've now completed two such treatments and I can't honestly say that there have been any dramatic results, although my osteoarthritis seems to be marginally less painful. However, this could be just due to exercise and psychological factors. Could you please tell me whether you know of any serious scientific studies of it, particularly any involving double-blind procedures?
John H Randall, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire (Autumn 2007)

A) There have been two randomised controlled trials which showed some benefit of CMO in osteoarthritis of the knee. However, a recent analysis of all the trials concluded that 'limited evidence was found for the Chinese plant extract Duhuo Jisheng Wan, cetyl myristoleate, lipids from green-lipped mussels, and plant extracts from Harpagophytum procumbens. So the evidence isn't strong. With any treatment, even the most powerful designer drugs we have, not everyone will respond. Why this is so probably depends on many factors, including the genetic makeup (how the cells respond to drugs), differences in drug absorption and differences in severity of the disease. It's always dangerous to go on anecdotal evidence in particular as these will be selected individuals whose experience may not extrapolate to others. The ultimate in trial design is the randomised controlled trial, as you say, but even these have their limitations as patients selected for these studies may also be a rather atypical group. For example, the very elderly are seldom included.

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